Tag: Soft Metals (Page 1 of 2)

TEC’s 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The 21ST CENTURY

Today, electronic instrumental music is everywhere, but often in the form of tedious dance tracks with no tunes all over Beatport and social media.

Luckily, there are still exponents of the classic synth instrumental, and thanks to the rise of the Synthwave sub-genre, there is currently a sympathetic environment for more esoteric and melodic musical offerings.

The key to a good instrumental is it either has to be very melodic to make up for the lack of vocals or very unobtrusive so that while the music is interesting enough to be listened to, it can also be ignored. Thus a Eurorack modular tutorial cannot credibly count as a valid release… 😉

As a follow-up to TEC’s 25 SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The CLASSIC ERA, with a limit of one track per artist, The Electricity Club presents its 25 FAVOURITE SYNTH INSTRUMENTALS Of The 21ST CENTURY in chronological and then alphabetical order…


SYSTEM F Insolation (2000)

While Dutch producer Ferry Corsten hit paydirt with club hits such as ‘Out Of The Blue’ and ‘Cry’ as SYSTEM F, the debut album pointed towards the Trance’s link to electronic pop. As well as a collaboration with Marc Almond entitled ‘Soul On Soul’, the long player included the beautifully majestic classic instrumental ‘Insolation’ which took a breather from the usual four-to-the floor format.

Available on the album ‘Out Of The Blue’ via Premier

http://www.ferrycorsten.com/


PPK ResuRection – Perfecto Edit (2001)

PPK were a Russian trance duo comprising of  Sergei Pimenov and Alexander Polyakov. The original melody of ‘ResuRection’ came from Eduard Artemyev’s synthesized theme from the epic 1979 Soviet movie ‘Siberiade’ which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival. Easily mistaken for JEAN-MICHEL JARRE, the thrusting seven minute ‘Perfecto Edit’ in particular was like an exuberant rocket launch set to music.

Originally released by Perfecto Records, currently unavailable

http://promodj.com/ppk


LADYTRON Turn It On (2002)

With a piercing synthphonic riff, scat vocoder, robotic bass and a rigid programmed beat, ‘Turn It On’ saw LADYTRON take a bleep forward with an attempt at a KRAFTWERK track for the 21st Century via Liverpool, Glasgow and Sofia. But as it headed towards its final third, it detoured back to Liverpool and turned into ‘Electricity’ in a cheeky homage to Merseyside’s original electronic trailblazers OMD.

Available on the album ‘Light & Magic’ via Telstar

http://www.ladytron.com/


FROST Klong (2003)

A Norwegian electronic duo consisting of Aggie Peterson and Per Martinsen, FROST released their second album ‘Melodica’ to a positive response, thanks to some production assistance by RÖYKSOPP on two tracks. The beautiful Arctic serenity of ‘Klong’ featuring local trumpeter Nils Petter Molvær alongside layers of gorgeous crystalline synths was one of the album’s highlights that easily outdid anything by GROOVE ARMADA and didn’t rely on using samples either.

Available on the album ‘Melodica’ via Frost World Recordings

https://frostnorway.com/


MYLO Emotion 96.8 (2004)

‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ was the well-received debut album by Scottish DJ Myles MacInnes that alongside DAFT PUNK and BASEMENT JAXX, summed up the sample laden dance music that was prevalent at the time. Produced on a computer in his own bedroo, the album’s best track however was the more downtempo, MOBY-esque richness of ‘Emotion 96.8’ with its beautiful sweeping synth melodies and unobtrusive rhythm structure. A follow-up to the long player has yet to appear.

Available on the album ‘Destroy Rock & Roll’ via Breastfed

http://www.mylo.tv/


ORBITAL Pants (2004)

With a hypnotic Motorik rhythm, pulsating bleeps and spacey whirs driving a moodier template along the lines of cult German experimentalists EMAK, Phil and Paul Hartnoll continued their primarily instrumental template on their ‘Blue Album’, although SPARKS contributed vocals to a totally unrelated track called ‘Acid Pants’. The brothers split shortly after the long player’s release, but returned in 2009 to play The Big Chill Festival.

Available on the album ‘Blue Album’ via Orbital Music

http://orbitalofficial.com/


MOBY Homeward Angel (2005)

From ‘Hymn’ to ‘First Cool Hive’ to ‘A Seated Night’, the man born Richard Melville Hall is a master of the instrumental. The solemn ‘Homeward Angel’ closed MOBY’s comparatively conventional and sample-less ‘Hotel’ album with a solemn yet uplifting slice of mood music that in retrospect, was incongruous with the main act. However, since leaving Mute in 2008, his more recent self-released albums such as ‘Destroyed’ and ‘Innocents’ have displayed this more esoteric quality.

Available on the album ‘Hotel’ via Mute Records

http://moby.com/


RÖYKSOPP Alpha Male (2005)

A ten minute instrumental epic, ‘Alpha Male’ came from RÖYKSOPP’s under rated second long player, one that moved away from the chill-out climes of ‘Melody AM’ into much darker sonic territory. The track’s lengthy ambient intro was interrupted by a mighty metronomic beat and the sort of progressive synth overtures that would have made JEAN-MICHEL JARRE proud.

Available on the album ‘The Understanding’ via Wall Of Sound Records

http://royksopp.com/


JOHN FOXX Kurfurstdendam (2006)

Since his musical return in 1997 with ‘Shifting City’, JOHN FOXX has practically had albums coming out of his ears in song-based, ambient and soundtrack formats, both solo and in collaboration with other artists. The spacey mechanical Schaffel of ‘Kurfurstdendam’ came from an imaginary soundtrack he called ‘Tiny Colour Movies’, inspired by a friend’s birthday screening of a private film collection comprising of random surveillance clips and offcuts from Hollywood.

Available on the album ‘Tiny Colour Movies’ via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN Space-Elevator (2007)

Few acts actually genuinely sound like their name… SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN, which translates as “the last man in space”, is the solo project of Swedish synthpop trailblazer Eddie Bengtsson, he of PAGE and S.P.O.C.K fame. The frantic ‘Space-Elevator’ with its swimmy string synths and Sci-Fi derived melody acted as an effective Moroder-esque interlude on his excellent sixth album ‘Tredje Våningen’.

Available on the album ‘Tredje Våningen’ via Energy Rekords

http://www.moonbasealpha.space/


TENEK Ice Fields (2007)

Borrowing the distinctive bassline from SIMPLE MINDS’ 1981 single ‘Love Song’, the British duo put together this lively danceable instrumental for their debut TENEK EP. With a modern mechanical groove coupled to their trademark synth rock, the almost funky ‘Ice Fields’ became an early live favourite, although the duo have focussed on more song based adventures for their three albums to date, ‘Stateless’, ‘On The Wire’ and ‘Smoke & Mirrors’.

Available on ‘EP1+’ via https://tenek.bandcamp.com/album/ep1

http://www.tenek.co.uk/


KLEERUP Hero (2008)

In 2007, Andreas Kleerup, producer and one-time drummer for THE MEAT BOYS, undertook his first mainstream collaboration with fellow Swede ROBYN. The success of ‘With Every Heartbeat’ led to the recording of his self-titled debut album which featured a number of brilliant instrumentals. ‘Hero’ was its perfect start and with a solid bassline and strong choral timbres, it had the vibe of how OMD might have sounded if they had formed in the 21st Century.

Available on the album ‘Kleerup’ via EMI Music

http://kleerup.net/


DAFT PUNK Tron Legacy – End Titles (2010)

While most of the ‘Tron Legacy’ soundtrack album was arranged and orchestrated by Joseph Trapanese, DAFT PUNK’s spiky electronics and drum machine were kept in alongside the epic strings for the end titles of the sequel to the 1982 movie ‘Tron’. There were nods to Wendy Carlos who composed the score to the original film, with Thomas Bangalter focusing on the heroic themes while Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo was more inclined to generating the darker elements.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘Tron Legacy’ via Walt Disney Records

https://www.daftpunk.com/


047 Kanpai! (2011)

Forming in 2001, Swedish duo 047 began their chiptune experiments thought a mutual appreciation of vintage video games. But after their debut long player, Peter Engström and Sebastian Rutgersson began to incorporate melodic song based elements and vocals into their music. The end results led to the impressive second album ‘Elva’, but they celebrated their chiptune influenced roots with the jolly YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA salute of ‘Kanpai!’

Available on the album ‘Elva’ via Killing Music

http://www.047.se/


MARSHEAUX Now & Never (2012)

‘The E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ was collection of rarities from the MARSHEAUX archives. While Marianthi Melitsi and Sophie Sarigiannidou have done a fair number of cover versions in their time, they are not really known for doing instrumentals. But the electro-boppy ‘Now & Never’ was a very promising wordless demo that Vince Clarke would have approved of; as one of his former DEPECHE MODE colleagues once sang: “words are very unnecessary…”

Available on the album ‘The E-Bay Queen Is Dead’ via Undo Records

http://marsheaux.com/


SOFT METALS Hourglass (2012)

Fusing Detroit techno with more European experimental forms, Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks’ second SOFT METALS album ‘Lenses’ featured the fabulous instrumental ‘Hourglass’. As Hall put it: “I really wanted to write lyrics for that one, but was never quite satisfied with what I came up with. I decided it would be better to let that one be an instrumental. I think it holds up on its own. It’s nice to give the listener a chance to interpret its meaning on its own rather than direct them with words”.

Available on the album ‘Lenses’ via Captured Tracks

https://www.facebook.com/SOFTMETALS/


VILE ELECTRODES The future through a lens (2013)

Anais Neon and Martin Swan’s tribute to ‘Assault On Precinct 13’, ‘The future through a lens’ was a moody but booming instrumental that began their excellent debut longer player of the same name, which later netted a Schallewelle Award for ‘Best international Album’ in 2014. With their vast array of analogue synthesizers and exquisite taste for sound textures, it won’t be too surprising if VILE ELECTRODES aren’t offered some soundtrack opportunities in the near future.

Available on the album ‘The future through a lens’ via
https://vileelectrodes.bandcamp.com/album/the-future-through-a-lens

http://www.vileelectrodes.com/


TODD TERJE Delorean Dynamite (2014)

Although making his name within EDM circles, the Norwegian producer born Todd Olsen paid a musical tribute to ‘Back To The Future’ and its futuristic gull-wing doored Delorean DMC-12 car with this suitably driving Synthwave instrumental. Unlike other so-called dance producers, Terje is conversant with electronic music history and possesses a wry sense of humour, as evidenced by the witty wordplay of track titles like ‘Inspector Norse’ and his own DJ moniker.

Available on the album ‘It’s Album Time’ via Olsen Records

http://toddterje.com/


BLANCMANGE Cistern (2015)

After the first phase of BLANCMANGE, Neil Arthur and Stephen Luscombe worked within the TV and film industry, scoring soundtracks and incidental music. Although best known for his voice, Neil Arthur’s instrumentals have been a continual form of expression. The brilliant ‘Cistern’ comes over like an imaginary Bond Theme for a retro-futuristic world. The wordless wonder that is the parent album ‘Nil By Mouth’ is an unsung masterpiece.

Available on the album ‘Nil By Mouth’ via Blanc Check

http://www.blancmange.co.uk


RODNEY CROMWELL Baby Robot (2015)

Adam Cresswell’s sombre vocals and the darker lyrical themes on his debut RODNEY CROMWELL album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ took a breather with the bright and breezy ‘Baby Robot’. With sweet synthesizer melodies, pretty glints of glockenspiel and a bouncy beatbox, the instrumental was inspired by birth of his son. “Yes, ‘Baby Robot’ is the one track on the album that’s 100% upbeat as it is about the experience of being a father” he gleefully told The Electricity Club.

Available on the album ‘Age Of Anxiety’ via https://happyrobotsrecords.bandcamp.com/

http://www.happyrobots.co.uk/


DARKNESS FALLS Thunder Roads (2015)

While Danish duo DARKNESS FALLS are better known for their melancholic Nordic vocals and neo-gothic overtones on songs like ‘The Void’, the dark synthy instrumental ‘Thunder Roads’ proved to be one of the most striking tracks on their second album ‘Dance & Cry’. With a punchy drum machine mantra and menacing reverberant sequence, it was augmented by guitar screeches and sombre six string basslines reminiscent of JOY DIVISION and THE CURE.

Available on the album ‘Dance & Cry’ via Fake Diamond Records

http://darknessfallsmusic.com/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE & BOYZ NOISE The Time Machine (2015)

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE’s first album for since ‘Teo & Tea’ in 2007 was a two volume opus entitled ‘Electronica’; it features collaborations with a number of synth pioneers and modern day dance artists including BOYZ NOISE aka Berlin DJ Alexander Ridha. This climactic track took on a new life as the set closer on the French synth maestro’s ‘Electronica’ world tour, with a lasered 3D visual feast that required no special glasses! BUT BEWARE OF FLASHING IMAGES! 😉

Available on the album ‘Electronica 1 – The Time Machine’ via Columbia Records

http://jeanmicheljarre.com/


JOHN CARPENTER Utopian Façade (2016)

The horror film king recorded his ‘Lost Themes’ series in collaboration with his son Cody and his godson Daniel Davies as standalone pieces, without the pressure of having to put the music to moving images. The second volume was completed on a tighter schedule to accompany a world concert tour and thus replicated some of the challenging moods in his soundtrack work with tracks like ‘Utopian Façade’ recalling his classic movie soundscapes.

Available on the album ‘Lost Themes II’ via Sacred Bones

http://www.theofficialjohncarpenter.com/


KYLE DIXON & MICHAEL STEIN Stranger Things (2016)

Dixon and Stein are members of the Texan group SURVIVE and their accompanying music to ‘Stranger Things’, a cross between ‘ET’, ‘The Goonies’ and ‘Alien’, sent electronic music fans into online meltdown with its use of vintage analogue synths. With a soundtrack influenced by the horror flicks of Dario Argento and of course John Carpenter, the one minute opening title music to the acclaimed drama series said all that was needed to be said in its brooding dissonant tones.

Available on the soundtrack album ‘Stranger Things – Volume 1’ via Invada Records

https://www.facebook.com/survivesurvive/


TINY MAGNETIC PETS Klangfarben (2016)

As would be expected from a title like ‘Klangfarben’, this vibrant instrumental from Dublin trio TINY MAGNETIC PETS is an enjoyable homage to Germanic music forms, with a loose percussive feel that still maintains that vital degree of Motorik. A word meaning “soundcolour”, it refers to a technique whereby a musical line is split between several instruments, rather than assigning it to just one instrument, thereby adding timbre and texture to proceedings.

Available on the EP ‘The NATO Alphabet EP’ via https://tinymagneticpets.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Tiny-Magnetic-Pets-69597715797/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
25th April 2017

Five Years of TEC: 25 Favourite Artist Introductions 2010 – 2014

TEC 5 years-02When The Electricity Club became reality on 15th March 2010, it was on the back of a resurgence in electronic pop music.

New starlets such as LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX were acknowledging pioneers such as GARY NUMAN and HEAVEN 17, while the use of synthesizers for melodies as well as effects was becoming more common again and not just as a mocking gimmick.

TEC’s ‘Introducing…’ feature was a platform to showcase promising new talent within the genre and proved that electronic music had not been killed off by Britpop. Around 70 acts have been featured and from these, a number of worthy graduates from the Synth Britannia school and the like emerged. Meanwhile a number were just promising, their talent stifled by line-up changes, record company politics and even geography.

So here are TEC’s 25 favourite artist introductions, listed in the chronological order that they were originally featured on the site…


SHH (2010)

shh_bed1Electronic Pop Buenos Aires Style, SHH were the first act to be introduced by TEC. Led by the vivacious Diana Huarte, they had a sexy blissful optimism that made them a very entertaining live act. They say Latinas are fiery and there was certainly a provocative passion in her performance. Schooled in opera and brimming with charm, Diana’s vocals displayed a magnificent range that suited both uptempo sun-kissed pop like ‘Tiger’ and ERASURE-esque ballads such as ‘Sleepless’.

Their stand-out song was ‘Wonderful Night’ which was reminiscent of Greek power popsters MIKRO with its solid beat and rousing chorus. A third album has yet to be finished, but SHH still make occasional appearances on London’s live circuit, most recently supporting SIGUE SIGUE SPUTNIK.

https://www.facebook.com/Shhsounds


MIRRORS (2010)

Mirrors-also-boxMIRRORS were the second act to have an ‘Introducing…’ feature on The Electricity Club and are still very much the band that new synth acts are judged against. Their fans included Andy McCluskey, Paul Humphreys, Neil Arthur and Eddie Bengtsson. Qualitatively, many a band have been rejected at TEC HQ, simply because “they’re not MIRRORS”. Having delivered a magnificent album in ‘Lights & Offerings’, it is a travesty that MIRRORS’ electronic pop-noir was not embraced by the wider community.

Sadly after founder member Ally Young left in Autumn 2011 due to musical differences, the band appeared to wind down after two releases as a trio. And yet while MIRRORS seem to have been mothballed, far inferior synth acts go on and on and on…

https://www.facebook.com/theworldofmirrors


ARTHUR & MARTHA (2010)

Almost as soon as ARTHUR & MARTHA were the third act introduced on TEC, they disappeared! The duo comprised of, rather confusingly, Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley, described as “Gilbert & George, disguised as The Carpenters, stealing the hits of Kraftwerk and bashing them out on an old Moog in the style of SECTION 25”. Driven by a synthetic motorik beat, ‘Autovia’ was the superb highlight from their only album ‘Navigation’ which played with a variety of styles ranging from NEW ORDER to CRYSTAL CASTLES.

While ARTHUR & MARTHA are no more, Hubley formed indie act COSINES while Cresswell recently re-emerged as RODNEY CROMWELL.

https://www.facebook.com/Arthur-and-Martha-6821029194/


THE VANITY CLAUSE (2010)

vanityOriginally a duo consisting of David Woods and Russell Harris, THE VANITY CLAUSE‘s potential was blighted by endless line-up changes before a terminal blow. With a synth sound that was heavily influenced by early ULTRAVOX, LADYTRON and Mute Records, it involved big played synths over chunky sequences and urgent rhythm construction. The classic line-up included vocalist and synth girl Louisa Strachan, but never actually released a full length album. An album, appropriately titled ‘Fractured’, was issued after David Woods’ departure, but was disappointing.

The Woods sessions were released eventually as ‘Pre-Stress’ while THE VANITY CLAUSE soldiered on with Mk3 and Mk4 variants. The latter produced an excellent single ‘The Scream’ but the creative momentum could not be maintained. Russell Harris joined ELECTRO KILL MACHINE for a brief period but now makes music as GO YOKO.

https://www.facebook.com/thevanityclauseofficial


KATJA VON KASSEL (2010)

katja1The Electro Weimar Cabaret of KATJA VON KASSEL was a fine sultry presence on the independent music scene. Singing in both German and English, often within the same song in an alluring Marlene Dietrich tone, she had a number of cool elegant songs like ‘Goodbye Was Never Said’, ‘Riding The Horses’ and ‘Lili Marlene’ which were produced with LADYHAWKE collaborator Alex Gray. Her best song ‘Lies’ had strong traditional European influences like French accordions and ‘Vienna’ piano set to a template in a manner that recalled GRACE JONES’ ‘I’ve Seen That Face Before’.

With her “1930s meets the future” twist, she supported ERASURE on their German dates in 2011 and as a result, was signed by a major label. Sadly as has been the case with several acts on the list, that partnership didn’t work out. While record company politics have so far prevented any releases, she intends to have material out soon.

http://www.myspace.com/katjamusic


THE SOUND OF ARROWS (2010)

sound of arrows with dogTHE SOUND OF ARROWS were Stefan Storm and Oskar Gullstrand, said by Popjustice to be “the HURTS you can dance to”. Their self-made CGI assisted visual imagery was described as “Disney meets Brokeback Mountain”! The duo garnered a lot of attention at the end of 2009 with the dreamy widescreen pop of ‘Into The Clouds’ and they were subsequently signed to Geffen Records. The label attempted to push them into a more Ibiza rave friendly sound but eventually, a parting of ways was agreed.

The debut album ‘Voyage’ was eventually released independently in 2011 and was wonderfully swathed in a beautiful Nordic melancholy. There was the poptimistic chant of ‘Magic’ as well as the vibrant Gallic disco number ‘My Shadow’ and the magnificent supreme synthpop of ‘Longest Ever Dream’. THE SOUND OF ARROWS went quiet after that, but Stefan Storm later did some terrific collaborations with QUEEN OF HEARTS

http://www.thesoundofarrows.com


VILE ELECTRODES (2010)

vileint1At the time a trio, VILE ELECTRODES had been making a good impression on the London club scene when they were featured on The Electricity Club in 2010. There are not many acts that could get away with an enigmatic video showcasing a seven and a half minute synth ballad, let alone a fledgling one… but get away with it they did with ‘Deep Red’. VILE ELECTRODES’ love of OMD, NEW ORDER, THE SMITHS and CLIENT combined to procure a fresh approach to a music form that many had dismissed as being 80s.

Some less worthy bands claim to have reinvigorated the 21st Century electronic music scene in the UK, but VILE ELECTRODES did exactly that. So it was not entirely surprising when they were invited to support OMD on their 2013 German tour and the journey began…

https://www.facebook.com/vileelectrodes


HYPERBUBBLE (2010)

Quirky Texan synthesizer couple HYPERBUBBLE delivered a species of cartoonish synthpop that the duo themselves called “Bionic Bubblepunk”. With Jess as the electro Emma Peel and Jeff being the obedient robotic version of John Steed, their mantra was “guitars are retro and sequencers are the key to the future”. Their third album ‘Candy Apple Daydreams’ was a tasty fairground ride that took in influences as diverse as YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA and OUR DAUGHTERS WEDDING to THE OHIO EXPRESS and THE CAPTAIN & TENNILLE, all with a shiny sense of humour.

While a fourth album has not yet been forthcoming, a series of soundtrack and collaborative EPs have maintained HYPERBUBBLE’s profile while they played London for the first time in Autumn 2014.

http://www.hyperbubble.net


SUNDAY GIRL (2010)

sunday4Jade Williams got her stage name from a part time job she had in a pet shop where she was known simply as SUNDAY GIRL. With a raspy voice that appeared to have been shaped from smoking far too many Gauloises in a Paris café, she was signed to Geffen Records. Her first two singles, ‘Four Floors’ and a cover of Italo standard ‘Self Control’ were more ELLIE GOULDING in demeanour. But it was ‘Stop Hey!’ with its piercing MIRRORS meets MGMT template which showed her potential. The unreleased ‘24 Hours’ was wonderfully claustrophobic post-punk but best of all was ‘All The Songs’, a brilliant slice of avant pop powered by pulsing electronic bass and layers of vibrato synth.

However, Geffen Records had other ideas and pushed her into covers of songs made famous by STEPS and THE PIXIES! Once LANA DEL REY hit the airwaves internationally, it was all over bar the shouting and the debut album never came out. Today, Jade Williams is involved in a more conventional pop project under the less mysterious moniker of WHINNIE WILLIAMS.

http://www.wearesundaygirl.com


MAISON VAGUE (2011)

maisonIn 2008, PARRALOX declared “We believe in electric love”! In 2011, “Synthpop’s alive!” was the MAISON VAGUE battlecry! Consisting of lone American-born German based keyboardist / programmer Clark Stiefel, the title track of MAISON VAGUE’s album was a musical reply to a YouTube video that proclaimed “Synthpop is dead”. With a template of GARY NUMAN meets DEVO, MAISON VAGUE combined aggression with eccentricity, but all the songs possessed a sly tongue-in-cheek irony as well as a gloriously vintage synth sound.

A second album has yet to appear but Clark Stiefel still continues with his day job in the classical music world.

http://www.maisonvague.com


QUEEN OF HEARTS (2011)

queenQUEEN OF HEARTS is the talented Elizabeth Morphew who first came to public attention via RED BLOODED WOMEN, a girl group who sounded not unlike GIRLS ALOUD being produced by Daniel Miller. She once said “pop is not a dirty word” and this was reflected in her electro wonderland. Her debut EP ‘The Arrival’ contained enticing songs like the Moroder-esque throb of ‘Freestyle’ and a gorgeous cover of FOALS’ ‘Spanish Sahara’. But best of all was 2012’s ‘Neon’ with its deliciously wired glitterball sparkle that managed to out Goldfrapp GOLDFRAPP.

Her work attracted interest from producers like Mark Reeder who reworked ‘Neon’ and collaborated on ‘United’, although the Stuart Price produced ‘Feel’ has still to officially see the light of day. Her well received debut album ‘Cocoon’ was released in 2014 and she is presently in the studio working on new songs.

http://www.iamqueenofhearts.com/


KID KASIO (2011)

kid kasio-4-700x1024KID KASIO is Nathan Cooper, one-time member of those once great white hopes THE MODERN aka MATINEE CLUB who in their time, supported HEAVEN 17 and released the excellent single ‘Jane Falls Down’ mixed by Stephen Hague. With a debut album ‘Kasiotone’ under his belt, KID KASIO’s vintage but modern flavoured sound updated the one man and his synth template pioneered by HOWARD JONES.

‘The Reason’, ‘Not For Turning’ and ‘Telephone Line’ were fine examples of his bouncy riff laden ditties with catchy choruses reminiscent of imperial phase DURAN DURAN. But the best KID KASIO number was ‘I Miss You’ which sounded like ‘Forbidden Colours’ reworked by LA ROUX. A second album is currently being finished.

http://www.kidkasio.com


CURXES (2011)

Curxes-Lucy-GoodaleCURXES have been continuing their development into a more aggressive post-punk template with wonderful songs such as the haunting staircase mystery of ‘Spectre’ and the CHVRCHES gone aggro stand point of ‘Avant-Guarded’. But when the Blitz Poppers first made a splash on the scene back in Summer 2011, they were “a decorative set of bones, channelling the ghosts of discothèques past” in a manner of DEPECHE MODE being eaten by SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. This material was released as a mini-album ‘Precurxor’ in 2014.

Where they are heading next may be less overtly synthy but is still technologically dynamic and inventive. Their debut album ‘Verxes’ has been a long time coming but if tracks such as ‘Valkyrie’ are anything to go by, it will have been worth the wait.

http://www.curxes.com/


SOFT METALS (2011)

SOFT METALS colourMore immediate than XENO & OAKLANDER and much shinier than CRYSTAL CASTLES, SOFT METALS took their arsenal of cool vintage synths into ORBITAL territory with a rugged squelch ‘n’ bleep framework driven by Roland Rhythm Composers. Comprising of Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks, the duo have proven their artistic worth with a hypnotic sound on their first self-titled album. The synthetically charged joy of ‘Voices’ was a great calling card while ‘Do You Remember?’ and ‘Eyes Closed’ showcased Patricia Hall’s flirtatious demeanour over a Detroit Techno influenced backbone.

The second album ‘Lenses’ was a natural development of the debut and tracks like ‘Tell Me’, ‘No Turning Back’ and ‘Hourglass’ have indicated there is still more great music to come in that delicious Métaux Mous vein.

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals


ELEVEN: ELEVEN (2012)

111-Sicca-thumbComprising of the seductively celestial voice of Sicca and the instrumentation of Jake Childs, Texan duo ELEVEN:ELEVEN have an electronic dance sound that recalls a variety of influences including Italo Disco, Hi-NRG, Electroclash and the band BERLIN. Their impressive debut ‘Through The Veil’ showed subtle, crafted thinking within EDM as well as hypnotic hints of BOBBY O and GIORGIO MORODER.

With range of rhythmical dynamics on songs such as ‘Little White Lies’, ‘No Words’ and the brilliantly sparkling title track, ELEVEN: ELEVEN’s songs rarely clock in above four minutes, thus avoiding the death-by-four-to-the-floor syndrome that afflicts the majority of club music.

http://weare1111.com/


CHVRCHES (2012)

CHVRCHES-in-fieldThe Electricity Club took a punt at covering CHVRCHES after just one song, but it all turned out rather well. Introduced to the band by the wonderful CURXES, CHVRCHES’ brilliant opening gambit ‘Lies’ was ‘The Whole Of The Moon’ re-imagined by DEPECHE MODE but fronted by ROBYN. With electronic drum tattoos, meaty piercing synths and a great tune, the Glaswegian trio of Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook and Martin Doherty certainly made an impression.

‘The Mother We Share’ proved it was not a fluke while ‘Now Is Not The Time’ showed CHVRCHES were in a position to regulate great songs to B-sides. Support slots with DEPECHE MODE, a never ending tour and a well-received debut album in ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’ have been further evidence of CHVRCHES impact in the international arena.

http://www.chvrch.es/


TITANS (2012)

TITANSImagine if RAMMSTEIN were reincarnated as DEPECHE MODE but without the flame throwers? TITANS‘ vocalist Dan Von Hoyel sounds like a lower register Dave Gahan crossed with a less Teutonic Till Lindemann. In a sub-genre known for its shouting, TITANS’ mighty calling card ‘It’s Dark’ was menacing but melodic. The parent album ‘For The Long Gone’ was an enjoyable listen too, energetic without being bombastic and tuneful without being twee.

The foreboding synth atmospheres of ‘All There Is’ were reminiscent of a doomy CAMOUFLAGE while the Olympian effort of the title track could have been ULTRAVOX meeting RAMMSTEIN for an electronic collaboration. While an EP ‘My Sorrow’ with new songs came out in 2013, a second album is eagerly awaited.

http://www.facebook.com/TitansOfficial


SAY LOU LOU (2013)

say lou lou4Stunning identical twins Elektra and Miranda Kilbey have been labelled the female HURTS and certainly their second single ‘Julian’ is still one of their best songs, full of tension, angst and intrigue like a Nordic Noir mini-series compressed into a three minute pop song. Like HURTS, their music could do with a kick occasionally but numbers such as ‘Everything We Touch‘ are like a sophisticated Scandipop take on HEART, driven by a togetherness that can only come from two siblings.

The forthcoming release of their debut album ‘Lucid Dreaming’ will confirm whether SAY LOU LOU have been able to deliver on their brand of shimmering but accessible escapism.

http://www.sayloulou.com/


GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS (2013)

GIRL ONE GREASE GUNS PHOTOWho are GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS? Nobody really knows for sure, but this mysterious combo with their lo-fi noise and motorik beats have revealed a series of energetic singles over the past few years. There was the ‘Logan’s Run’ tribute ‘Jessica 6’, an eerie post-punk cacophony of sound laced with icy string machine sounding like THE PIPETTES fronting an OMD assisted JOY DIVISION while a winter of discontent overtone sat on the dysfunctional indie synthpop of ‘Driving Without Headlights (Once Again)’.

However in 2014, a much softer side was revealed on ‘No Longer Spellbound’. With its beautiful atmospheric quality smothered in icy synths and grainy vox samples, it would have been the theme tune to ‘Twins Peaks’ had the series been set in The Lake District.

http://www.squirrelrecords.co.uk/girl-one-and-the-grease-guns/


NIGHT CLUB (2013)

NIGHT CLUBForming in 2011, vocalist Emily Kavanaugh and producer Mark Brooks began writing songs that combined the pure pop of PINK and BRITNEY SPEARS with the heavier spectre of SLAYER into a danceable, electronic underworld. They truly arrived on their second EP ‘Love Casualty’, with the highlight being ‘Poisonous’ which reimagined EURYTHMICS’ ‘Sweet Dreams’ fronted by Britney if she had gone Goth.

And with their third EP ‘Black Leather Heart’, NIGHT CLUB delivered their best body of work yet. Featuring a dark disco cover of INXS ‘Need You Tonight’, it was trumped by the sinister yet playfully feline ‘She Wants To Play With Fire’ and the Electroclash flavoured ‘Cruel Devotion’. Based on the evidence trajectory so far, NIGHT CLUB’s fourth EP looks like it will be a blinder!

http://nightclubband.com/


QUIETER THAN SPIDERS (2013)

quieter than spidersCould The Electricity Club have found another MIRRORS in QUIETER THAN SPIDERS? But whereas MIRRORS openly flaunted their Gilbert & George look, QUIETER THAN SPIDERS have been totally anonymous. Their “Shanghai Synthpop …using home-made electronic sounds played by hand” has certainly made an impact with ‘Shanghai Metro’ recalling the obvious melodic elements of classic OMD.

Then there was the haunting dreamscape of ‘Hibakusha’ with its modern, processed twist while the simply wonderful ‘The Land Of The Lost Content’ glided with a glacial beauty that was not only appealing to the ear, but could be danced to as well. The long awaited debut album ‘Signs Of Life’ is to be released on Anna Logue Records sometime in 2015.

https://www.facebook.com/QTSpiders


I AM SNOW ANGEL (2014)

i am snow angel -julieI AM SNOW ANGEL’s music evokes images of icy landscapes and crystalline hydro basins but with a North American twist. Her self-titled debut EP introduced enticingly understated numbers like ‘Grey White December’ and ‘Let Me Go’, but it was her debut album ‘Crocodile’ that united a countrified twang with her dreamy, whispery world to produce a unique and quietly subversive sound within electronica.

There was the excellence of the title track while ‘Walking On Wires’ recalled THE POSTAL SERVICE. But just when you thought there could be no more surprises, there was her drum ‘n’ bass take on BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN’s ‘I’m On Fire’!

http://iamsnowangel.com/


MACHINISTA (2014)

Machinista_bandThe Swedish pairing of John Lindqwister and Richard Flow have declared themselves “synthpop with a rock’n’roll edge” but MACHINISTA have shown themselves to be far weightier with songs such as the superb Brechtian drama of ‘Summersault’ and the midlife pondering ‘Pushing The Angels Astray’. Their debut album ‘Xenoglossy’ delivered on the promise already shown with their first EP ‘Arizona Lights’ and an appearance at ‘An Evening With The Swedish Synth’.

Combining the best elements of both ALPHAVILLE and THE CURE into an enjoyably well produced template of anthemic electro, they even had the bottle to do a cover of DAVID BOWIE’s ‘Heroes’ and did a pretty good job of it too.

http://www.machinistamusic.com/


FIFI RONG (2014)

FifiRong-01FIFI RONG has been building her repertoire using a wide range of influences such as dubstep, trip hop and Chinese folk music while also name checking the likes of COCTEAU TWINS and MAZZY STAR. She also collaborated with TRICKY and her first album ‘Wrong’ came with a rework of her TRICKY track retitled as ‘Only If I Knew’ which was by far a more beautiful interpretation and fully exploited the song’s potential.

Her best number so far though has is ‘Next Pursuit’, which combines the vocal mystery of KELLI ALI and the quirkiness of MOLOKO. Adding rhythmical variation and avoiding clichés, FIFI RONG has manifested her own dream laden underground electronica. She is currently working with BORIS BLANK of YELLO fame.

http://www.fifirong.com


PAWWS (2014)

Pawws2PAWWS is what CHVRCHES would sound like if they were an all-female concern ie a blokey free zone. With some Scandipop influences and a dose of second hand Roland JX-8P, the end result is some sweet, sugary electronically driven pop. The coy, feline magnetism of ‘Slow Love’ showcased PAWWS aka Lucy Taylor’s brand of “upsetting disco” and ‘Give You Love’ from the following ‘Sugar’ EP also lived up to that template.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times described the EP title track “As if Kylie had worked with OMD”. If there is one lady who could fill the female fronted synthpop void that has been vacated by LA ROUX and LITTLE BOOTS, it is PAWWS. With the warm reception accorded to the first two releases, more music is on the way from Miss Taylor…

https://www.pawwsmusic.co.uk


Text by Chi Ming Lai
7th March 2015, updated 22nd May 2016

THE BEAUTY OF THE SYNTHESIZER

Following the publication of a ‘25 Frontwomen That Defined Britpop Beauty’ list by fashion blog Never Under Dressed, The Electricity Club pondered as to what a synthpop list would look like…

The Electricity Club readily admits it features a significant number of new female fronted synth acts. In TEC’s opinion, many of these artists are pushing the genre forward in directions that have not been pursued previously.

In the Synth Britannia heyday, other than Alison Moyet, Annie Lennox, Gillian Gilbert, Claudia Brücken and Terri Nunn, there were very few women involved in electronic pop music as equals.

Of course, today it is very different. Portable music technology accessible via laptops and compact keyboards such as the MicroKorg has opened up endless possibilities for the independent female musician. So when a classic styled synthpop track has feminine voices and talent driving it, there is a freshness to the approach that manages to avoid sounding completely retro. With so much being hung on a so-called synth revival, there are a number of male dominated acts that are quite clearly pastiches of key bands from back in the day.

So in alphabetical order and confined to women who front primarily electronic acts and / or play synths in the new millennium, here are The Electricity Club’s choices to represent The Beauty Of The Synthesizer…


MIRA AROYO

While LADYTRON are very much a quartet musically, imagewise it has been the band’s female pair who have been the focal point. When Mira Aroyo first appeared on the scene, her icy East European demeanour suited the band’s dark terrorist chic meets the catwalk. With a look akin to the notorious Baader-Meinhof gang, Mira was armed with a Korg MS20 as her weapon of choice. As well as DJing, other projects have included her stark deadpan presence on the appropriately dystopian ‘Watching A Building On Fire’ with JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in 2011.

http://www.ladytron.com/


AU REVOIR SIMONE

AuRevoirSimone2014It’s triple keyboard action with Brooklyn’s studious librarians whose shows are a bit like musical slumber parties. No-one in the band is called Simone; there’s Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D’Angelo who each have their own sweet sense of style while handling an assorted array of synths including the Nord Electro2, Roland Juno 60, Casiotone MT70 and ubiquitous MicroKorg. With four albums to their name, AU REVOIR SIMONE are still very much considered hipster faves although they are a symbol of how the synthesizer can be universally integrated.

http://aurevoirsimone.com/


SARAH BLACKWOOD

sarah-blackwood_2010The charming, down-to-earth lass from Halifax has been a stylish presence since first hitting the mainstream with DUBSTAR in 1995, who managed to combine synth melodies with the more guitar laden manifesto of Britpop. Sarah Blackwood’s girl-next-door charm has always been her appeal but when she formed CLIENT with Kate Holmes to adopt a harsher electronic sound complimented by the duo’s uniformed Cold War chic, Sarah’s position as a modern day synth icon was assured.

http://www.eblackwood.com/


FEATHERS

Feathers-AnastasiaDimouThe all female Texas based quartet feature a flexible line-up, but the one constant in FEATHERS is singer / songwriter / programmer Anastasia Dimou. As one can expect from a lady of Greek ancestry, Anastasia has an enigmatic Goddess-like quality about her that with her bandmates, results in a mysterious odyssey best exemplified by the video to debut single ‘Land Of The Innocent’. Musically, FEATHERS’ sound could be likened to THE BANGLES fronting DEPECHE MODE. They supported Basildon’s finest on the final European leg of the ‘Delta Machine’ tour.

http://www.feathers.fm/


ALISON GOLDFRAPP

goldfrappModern electropop’s most influential chameleon. From thigh booted dominatrix, to unicorn tailed X-rated Kylie and even sexy pink jump suited alien, costume has always been a way of overcoming Miss Goldfrapp’s awkwardness with being a pop star. Her presentation sensibilities have ensured that all the looks have been alluring; “She’s got great legs!” observed Sarah Blackwood. Meanwhile, her on-stage antics using a portable Theremin have been unforgettable; “Every girl should have one” she cackled when GOLDFRAPP supported DURAN DURAN in 2004.

http://goldfrapp.com/


GRIMES

GRIMES-2014Montreal’s GRIMES aka Claire Boucher and her faithful Roland Juno G have provided some interesting hybrid electro influenced by K-Pop, New Age and R ‘n’ B. Her kooky charm, leftfield aspirations and macabre artwork have impressed both hipsters and old fashioned synthheads alike. Her new song ‘Go’ features perhaps a more soulful, laid back groove whilst still playing around with technologically manipulated sound sources as she prepares to deliver even further after her acclaimed album ‘Visions’ in 2012.

http://www.grimesmusic.com


PATRICIA HALL

Soft-Metals-korgSOFT METALS lead vocalist Patricia Hall has that look which wouldn’t be out of place in the Shoreditch set, but her willingness to join in the synth battles with her partner Ian Hicks makes her all the more appealing. Although she has described her look as being influenced by the timeless style Françoise Hardy and Jane Birkin, she has admitted that most of the SOFT METALS kitty ends up buying equipment rather than clothes. Her favourite synth happens to be the Roland Juno60, thanks to its patch memory and user friendly layout.

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals


IMOGEN HEAP

Imogen-HeapWith her eccentric professor persona, Ms Heap could be considered to be the female Thomas Dolby. As well as being a crowdfunding trailblazer, she has also been involved in the development of new musical interfaces like the MIDI Glove, which she describes as an extension of her “no smoke no mirrors” approach with her audience. And she’s not to be messed with either; when an advance promo copy of her 2009 album ‘Ellipse’ appeared on eBay, she rallied her loyal followers to sabotage the sale with bids of £10,000 and complaints to the online auctioneer.

http://www.imogenheap.co.uk/


I AM SNOW ANGEL

The location of the 1980 Winter Olympics, it is the apt that this village in the Adirondack Mountains should be at the heart of the beautifully gentle electronica of I AM SNOW ANGEL. The self-produced vehicle of the now Brooklyn based singer/songwriter Julie Kathryn, as can be imagined from the artist moniker, the music evokes images of icy landscapes and crystalline hydro basins. Proficient as a singer, songwriter, musician and producer, she adds some traditional Americana twang to the electronica aesthetic which in itself, is quietly subversive.

http://www.iamsnowangel.com


KID MOXIE

kid moxieBWThe stunning multi-talented Elena Charbila is a proficient bassist and programmer. Her abilities also extend into acting where she has appeared alongside Al Pacino and Malcolm McDowell. While her music has moved towards a cinematic electronic direction on her most recent offering ‘The Bailor’ the Greek born beauty has a love of pop music in all its forms which feeds her artistic mindset. One of her favourite all-time records is ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ by The Walker Brothers. Her second album ‘1888’ features contributions from Angelo Badalamenti.

https://www.facebook.com/kidmoxie


LITTLE BOOTS

Boots newWith her Korg Polysix, MicroKorg and Yamaha Tenorion, LITTLE BOOTS aka Victoria Hesketh perhaps represented what Joanne and Susanne from THE HUMAN LEAGUE would have done had they been teenagers in the 21st Century, ie get a laptop and take up the synthesizer themselves, rather than join a band of blokeys! She remains first and foremost, a musician / songwriter and whether she will ever recover from 679 / Atlantic Records attempt to turn her into the new Kylie Minogue remains to be seen.

http://www.littlebootsmusic.co.uk/


MARNIE

Marnie_pool

Photo by Lisa Devine Photography

If Mira Aroyo is the Anni-Frid Lyngstad of LADYTRON, then Helen Marnie is Agnetha Fältskog. The sweeter, more pop inclined of the pair, Helen certainly appeared at home with a more glamorous image when LADYTRON relaxed their uniformed stance after their third album ‘Witching Hour’. It was probably Helen who persuaded Mira Aroyo to sport swimwear on their 2003 DJ mix compilation ‘Softcore Jukebox’. She is obviously comfortable with that look as she has continued with the swimwear and gone for some glossy imagery in support of her pristine first solo album ‘Crystal World’.

https://www.facebook.com/helen.marnie.official


MARSHEAUX

MARSHEAUX-queensThe Athens based synth maidens borrowed their uniformed look from CLIENT, but have carved out their own wispy form of synthpop while performing in unison on a pair of MicroKorgs. Marianthi Melitsi is the Helen Marnie of the pair with her sweet vocals and porcelain looks. Meanwhile, Sophie Sarigiannidou is more akin to Mira Aroyo with a more smouldering demeanour which is deadpan in comparison. Their understated glamour has attained MARSHEAUX a cult following in Europe and gained admirers as diverse as OMD and 30 SECONDS TO MARS.

https://www.facebook.com/marsheaux


LAUREN MAYBERRY

Photo copyright of Vikki McCraw

Photo copyright of Vikki McCraw

Miss Mayberry looks like she would be ID-ed at every licensed venue she is due to be playing at. But behind the sweet Humanities undergraduate look is a strong minded writer and campaigner for women’s rights. Despite the serious misogynistic abuse she has had to confront since the success of CHVRCHES, she retains a terrific sense of humour while performing… well, she would have to every time Blokey steps up to the microphone and tries to upstage her! What must she be thinking from behind that Roland A800?!

http://chvrch.es/home/


ANAIS NEON

VileNeon2Anais Neon from VILE ELECTRODES is a synth nerd’s dream, she played the part of Gillian Gilbert in the NEW ORDER tribute band RE: ORDER. She was once mistaken for Hannah Peel… this was not an entirely ridiculous observation as both have long red hair, but this incident took place at a JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS concert while Hannah was on stage with the electro pioneer! When VILE ELECTRODES supported OMD in Cologne, Anais endearingly said the only phrase she knew in Deutsch was “Mein Kannichen ist töt”… now what’s the German word for “batteries” again?

http://www.facebook.com/vileelectrodes


SARAH NIXEY

sarah_nixey“I was brought up to the sound of the synthesizer, I learnt to dance to the beat of electronic drums” proclaimed Miss Nixey on the song ‘Andrew Ridgley’ in 2003. With BLACK BOX RECORDER, her sophisticated allure has probably been exasperated by her ice cold lack of availability. The sexy school headmistress fantasy was fully exploited on songs such as ‘The Facts of Life’and ‘The School Song’. “You lot need toughening up” she deadpanned on the latter as the order to dive into an outdoor swimming pool in the middle of February was given!

http://www.sarahnixey.com/


KARIN PARK

Karin-Park1The statuesque Swede has a towering, entrancing presence on stage with her animated stares and jerky movements. Between songs and offstage though, Karin Park is gregarious; quite the opposite of the other Karin (Dreijer-Andersson). An impressive multi-tasker who dabbles with a Korg MS20 and keytar as part of her act, she even succeeded in penning a credible Eurovision entry with the DM influenced ‘I Feed You My Love’ for Norwegian popstress Margaret Berger. Following the critical success of ‘Highwire Poetry’, her new album is eagerly awaited.

http://www.karinpark.com/


PAWWS

PAWWS_press_shot_credit-SIMON_WISBEYKnown to her parents as Lucy Taylor, the earthy flute playing North Londoner has done stints touring with MGMT, but having acquired a Roland JX8P and borrowed a Jupiter 8, her own sugary pop sound has been bolstered by a use of classic electronics. The Sunday Times described the title song from PAWWS‘ EP ‘Sugar’ as sounding “As if Kylie had worked with OMD” and as she finds her feet, she could fill the void left open by LITTLE BOOTS and LA ROUX for a UK synth songstress.

https://www.pawwsmusic.co.uk


HANNAH PEEL

Hannah Peel 2014If Berenice Scott is the sexy but strict school teacher of the list, then Hannah Peel is her sweet, smiling student counterpart. Known as part of JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS’ live presentation, the former Dennis Leigh described her look as being straight out the Andy Warhol ‘Exploding Plastic Inevitable’ scene. The multi-talented Hannah has the most captivating synth girl wiggle while playing along to tracks such as ‘Catwalk’. Her own burgeoning solo career has seen her experimenting more with synthesizers as heard on her ‘Fabricstate’ EP.

http://www.hannahpeel.com


QUEEN OF HEARTS

Queen-of-Hearts-1-431x655If Lauren Mayberry of CHVRCHES can sometimes sound like Taylor Swift gone electro, then our young royal looks like Taylor Swift gone electro via Queen Amidala. She once tweeted: “If it ain’t electro, I don’t wish to know x”. Her debut album ‘Cocoon’ has been a long time coming but she has been steadily carving out a elegant niche and even adding her own vocals to DAFT PUNK instrumentals from ‘Tron Legacy’. QUEEN OF HEARTS‘ cooing allure has won over many fans including Berlin based producer Mark Reeder, who has now worked with her on several occasions.

http://www.iamqueenofhearts.com/


FIFI RONG

FifiRong-01Beijing born Fifi Rong has taken music and fashion into some intriguing fusions. She first came to prominence as a member of THE TENORIONS, but has since embarked on a journey which has involved collaborations with TRICKY and releasing her first album ‘Wrong’ in 2013. With influences such as COCTEAU TWINS and MAZZY STAR, the development of her own traditionally inspired brand of crisp electronica has resulted in ‘Next Pursuit’, possibly her best work to date.

http://fifirong.com/


MARINA SCHIPTJENKO

Marina_pageThe ever smiling Maria Schiptjenko, along with Gillian Gilbert, was one of the first female synth players following the post-punk revolution as a member of Swedish duo PAGE, although their first album did not appear until 1991. Also a member of BWO, VACUUM and more recently JULIAN & MARINA, she has always possessed a European elegance that has served her well in all her projects, be they in music or art. Another exponent of the MicroKorg, Marina’s sophisticated poise has complimented the more intense, animated stance of PAGE partner Eddie Bengtsson on their recent live dates.

https://www.facebook.com/PageElektroniskPop


POLLY SCATTERGOOD

Polly-Scattergood-MuteWith key influences such as Bjork and Kate Bush, Polly Scattergood has combined jubilant experimental pop with her innocent, affected vocals. At times like GOLDFRAPP crossed with COCTEAU TWINS and rousing with an air of fragility, her kooky on-stage persona delightfully combines Sarah Brightman with Sally Thomsett. Meanwhile, her lyrical vulnerability, as best exemplified on her most recent album ‘Arrows,’ is perfect listening on those rainy winter nights. And she even has her own Polly Moog, a Little Phatty no less!

http://www.pollyscattergood.com/


BERENICE SCOTT

Photo by Richard Price

Photo by Richard Price

Berenice Scott is currently HEAVEN 17’s live keyboardist and a solo artist in her own right with a new album ‘Polarity’ having just been released. TEC once described Berenice as “possibly the sexiest lady ever to get behind a synthesizer”. With her synth of choice being the Roland Fantom G8, in her short skirt and high heels, her appeal is enhanced even further by the fact she reminds you of your favourite school teacher. This is especially evoked with her raised eyebrow and stern look of disapproval whenever Messrs Gregory and Ware are larking about in front of her ‘desk’! No, she doesn’t smile much on stage, but like any good teacher, she is fully focussed on her job.

http://www.berenice-scott.co.uk/


EMILIE SIMON

As referenced in the PET SHOP BOYS song ‘Opportunities’, Mademoiselle Simon studied electronic music at the Sorbonne and then later the IRCAM. There she found “Using the computer meant that I also felt very independent artistically”. With a Kate Bush influenced dynamic, she exudes Gallic beauty and charm in her one woman shows where the Yamaha Tenorion and Casio guitar synth feature in addition to her array of keyboards. She also has a device not unlike Imogen Heap’s MIDI Gloves, courtesy of a Steampunk styled arm controller developed by Cyrille Brissot.

http://www.emiliesimon.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
30th June 2014, updated 13th May 2017

SOFT METALS Live in London

2014-05-27 22.11.44SOFT METALS delightfully impressed with their debut London gig at The Shacklewell Arms in Daltson.

Part of their first sojourn in Europe which has also included dates in Glasgow and Dublin plus a show with GAZELLE TWIN in Berlin, the LA based duo have felt an affinity with Europe since their ‘The Cold World Melts’ EP released in 2010.

Indeed, the title of one the tracks ‘Métaux Mous’ (French for “Soft Metals”) summed up their enthralling angelic mix of Detroit techno fused with minimal European synth forms as influenced by the likes of THROBBING GRISTLE and its offshoot CHRIS & COSEY.

And that’s not forgetting to mention the style of singer Patricia Hall with its nods to fashion icons such as Françoise Hardy. SOFT METALS made further in-roads with their first self-titled full length album in 2011 and its naturally progressive follow-up ‘Lenses’ released last year.

2014-05-27 21.42.04For this European tour, instrumentalist Ian Hicks’ arsenal of vintage synths and drum machines was simplified to feature a more straightforward, modern but still analogue set-up that was obviously easier to carry but no less punchy. Meanwhile, as well as providing her innocent reverbed vocals, Patricia Hall had a Dave Smith Mopho x4 at her disposal instead of her usual Juno60 and added some icy string machine sections to the bright and danceable electronic sketches that came forth.

SOFT METALS’ repeating rhythms, incessant blips and uplifting arpeggios on tracks such as ‘Voices’, ‘Lenses’ and ‘Always’ were powerful and crisp although occasionally, Patricia Hall’s vocals did struggle to be heard. But this did not hinder her flirtatious enthusiasm as she occasionally ventured toward her studios musical partner in the engine room, clearly enjoying her first time performing in London. ‘Psychic Driving’ and ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ allowed for some dreamy breathers in the middle amongst all the frantic action but it was the final part of the set that stole the show.

2014-05-27 21.41.00The wonderful ‘Tell Me’ totally mesmerised the audience into a trance, the detuned bursts providing a arty counterpoint to the dance while the sexy ‘In the Air’ provided a euphoric climax with Ian Hicks controlling the various pulsing layers to provide the dynamic highs and lows for a perfectly hypnotic finish. But there was more as the good looking couple threw in a brilliantly alluring club friendly version of THROBBING GRISTLE’s ‘Hot On The Heels Of Love’ as a bonus.

With the likes of TRUST, FEATHERS, AUSTRA, GRIMES, NIGHT CLUB, I AM SNOW ANGEL and ELEVEN: ELEVEN proving that North America is currently the proving ground for new, quality electronic pop music, SOFT METALS more than confirmed that they were part of this elite group with this first London performance.

The message from The Electricity Club is please come back soon 🙂


The albums ‘Soft Metals’ and ‘Lenses’ are released by Captured Tracks and available in CD, vinyl and download formats

https://www.facebook.com/softmetals

http://metauxmous.tumblr.com

http://soundcloud.com/soft-metals

http://capturedtracks.com/artists/softmetals/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
2nd June 2014

The Electricity Club’s End Of Year Review 2013

The Correct Use Of VCOs

The year started appropriately enough with an electronic number ‘2013’ by Belgian duo METROLAND.

For the first six or seven months of 2013, it proved to be one of the most productive periods in electronic pop music.

Not since the Autumn of 1981 when THE HUMAN LEAGUE ‘Dare’, GARY NUMAN ‘Dance’, ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’, DEPECHE MODE ‘Speak & Spell’, SOFT CELL ‘Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret’, HEAVEN 17 ‘Penthouse & Pavement’, SIMPLE MINDS ‘Sons & Fascination’, NEW ORDER ‘Movement’, JAPAN ‘Tin Drum’ and OMD ‘Architecture & Morality’ all came out had so many significant releases coincided.

Interestingly from that list, only JAPAN and SOFT CELL are missing as currently performing entities although MARC ALMOND himself made a number of concert and theatrical appearances during the year.

Photo by Anton Corbijn

OMD got back to their Kling Klang roots with their best album in 30 years entitled ‘English Electric’.

Although enthusiasts of the band’s pioneering work were satisfied, fans of OMD’s pop phase were confused as to why Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys had recorded an electronic album influenced by KRAFTWERK! This was an indicator of how the band have mutated and been perceived over the years.

But that was nothing compared with DEPECHE MODE whose single ‘Soothe My Soul’ was remixed by ZZ TOP’s Billy F Gibbons…

Although recognisably reworked, listeners could barely notice the join, thus fully confirming DM’s development into the world’s premiere stadium electro blues combo. Their album ‘Delta Machine’ was a big improvement on 2009’s ‘Sounds Of The Universe’, but it was no ‘English Electric’.

Alison MoyetAmong the other evergreens with new long players in 2013 were PET SHOP BOYS, ALISON MOYET and BEF. Messrs Tennant and Lowe finally worked with the ubiquitous Stuart Price to produce an album that was ‘Electric’ by name and electric by nature.

Meanwhile Moyet found her most musically compatible partner since Vince Clarke in Guy Sigsworth for the stunning return to form of ‘the minutes’.

Over at BEF, Martyn Ware assembled his most impressive cast of guest vocalists yet including ERASURE’s Andy Bell and CULTURE CLUB’s Boy George for the third volume of the ‘Music Of Quality & Distinction’ covers series; subtitled ‘Dark’, it featured some of Ware’s most starkly electronic work since he was in THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Another welcome return came from electronic disco pioneer GIORGIO MORODER. The icon is now 73 years old yet with his stomping track ‘Racer’, he proved could mix it with all the young pretenders. Indeed, his autobiographical contribution to DAFT PUNK’s tribute ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ reflected the respect and admiration he holds within the dance world.

Photo by Thomas Ecke

Although only a few years younger, KRAFTWERK’s Ralf Hütter showed no real signs of moving his iconic brand forward despite the 3D spectacle of ‘Der Katalog 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8’ live retrospectives in Düsseldorf, London, Tokyo and Sydney.

With the various hosting art spaces still seeing their ticketing systems collapse, was this really just an elaborate publicity stunt? After all, how many heritage acts get on the news for sending websites into meltdown?

It certainly didn’t do KRAFTWERK any harm as a headlining slot at Latitude Festival and its resultant BBC TV coverage proved. However, new material was still not forthcoming but such is the demand that several unscrupulous eBay dealers in Russia were passing off CD-Rs of three tracks from METROLAND’s 2012 album ‘Mind The Gap’ as KRAFTWERK demos!

Meanwhile, former colleague KARL BARTOS exorcised his Kling Klang ghost with ‘Off The Record’, a collection of his unreleased KRAFTWERK-era compositions which made a fine companion to OMD’s ‘English Electric’; his upcoming 2014 world tour is eagerly anticipated.

visage2013

Photo by David Levine

ULTRAVOX opened for SIMPLE MINDS but with Midge Ure spending most of the year doing the rounds with solo acoustic gigs, their synth lynchpin Billy Currie released his ninth solo offering ‘Balletic Transcend’.

Meanwhile in a revival of a project that both had been involved in, a fragmented VISAGE unleashed their first album in nearly 30 years to a mixed reception. With just Steve Strange remaining from the original line-up, ‘Hearts & Knives’ was essentially a solo project.

There were heated exchanges on social networks between Strange and his estranged Blitz Club partner Rusty Egan about misappropriated royalties and the validity of the reconfigured brand. Whatever, the raw video recording of the new VISAGE performing ‘Fade To Grey’ live at London’s Hoxton Bar and Kitchen stood as possibly the most embarrassing moment of the year.

Artists who made their name during Electroclash such as ADULT. and MISS KITTIN made welcome returns in 2013 while also from that era, LADYTRON’s Helen Marnie released her first solo offering ‘Crystal World’ crowd funded via Pledge Music.

It was a novel but effective way of securing a promotional budget that involved fans in the process by offering exclusive updates and an opportunity to purchase exclusive memorabilia. In MARNIE’s case, items on sale ranged from hand written lyric sheets to her Mini-Cooper and a bikini!

Meanwhile, former SNEAKER PIMPS sparring partners IAMX and KELLI ALI also went down the Pledge Music route, pointing the way forward to a music industry future without interference from record label middle men. But the failure of several crowd funding campaigns proved the model was not for everyone.

The Britpop era was not particularly known for its use of electronics but two acts who did indulge, REPUBLICA and DUBSTAR, made formal comebacks on the live circuit in 2013.

mesh-webSeeded from around the same time, Bristol’s MESH made possibly their best album yet in ‘Automation Baby’. Celebrating 30 years in the business, techno icon WESTBAM assembled a diverse cast including IGGY POP, LIL’ WAYNE, THE STRANGLERS’ Hugh Cornwall, NEW ORDER’s Bernard Sumner and THE PSYCHEDLIC FURS’ Richard Butler for an intriguing set called ‘Götterstrasse’. It was the surprise electronic release of the year.

There were also sophomore albums from LITTLE BOOTS, HURTS and AUSTRA which all drew muted responses from fans following their well received debuts; the promising spark had been present in all three acts appeared to have faded although each album had strong highlights. But there were impressive debuts in 2013 by GHOST CAPSULES, COLLINS and MODOVAR; and all this happened before the summer had started!

On the more guitar driven end of the spectrum, NIGHT ENGINE pursued an art rock aesthetic that would have made Berlin-era DAVID BOWIE proud. And of course, The Dame himself returned with ‘The Next Day’ headed by the touchingly reflective ‘Where Are We Now?’.

Adopting a more post-punk attitude, GIRL ONE & THE GREASE GUNS showed how battered synths, clanky guitars and motorik drums could still come together in perfect harmony while maintaining an air of mystery.

Meanwhile, WHITE LIES continued their New wave odyssey into how THE TEARDROP EXPLODES would have sounded had Julian Cope not got upset by BLANCMANGE’s ‘Happy Families’; they even borrowed a snatch of ‘Fade To Grey’ for the title track of their third album ‘Big TV’. This was despite the mainstream music media’s attempt to downplay their use of synths although the band countered that by declaring TEARS FOR FEARS, TALK TALK and THE BLUE NILE as kindred spirits rather than INTERPOL or EDITORS.

The second half of the year brought the much anticipated debut from CHVRCHES entitled ‘The Bones Of What You Believe’.

The trio have moved the goalposts as far as modern synthpop is concerned but they were not without their flaws such as the inexplicable decision to use dreary indie-styled male lead vocals on a pair of tracks.

But despite this, with sold out club tours, gigs supporting DEPECHE MODE in Europe and the might of Virgin Records behind them, world domination surely beckons and with it, a new raised profile for the synthesizer overall.

Virgin Records themselves celebrated 40 years in the business with a series of London concerts and its legacy in electronic music was represented by CHVRCHES, HEAVEN 17, SCRITTI POLITTI and SIMPLE MINDS. Although the label is now owned by the Universal Corporation (having been under the control of EMI since 1992), its colourful history remains associated with the championing of new and unconventional music forms during its fledgling years.

And in a diversion from music, one-time Virgin signee THOMAS DOLBY produced and directed ‘The Invisible Lighthouse’, a documentary on a monument local to his childhood home. In a novel style of presentation, the film went on a tour accompanied by a live narration and soundtrack from TMDR with some of his songs dispersed in between.

GARY NUMAN’s long delayed ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’ finally became a reality. A move to LA relaxed him to the point where he was posting his holiday photos on Twitter!

Musically though, he was as intense as ever but luckily, ‘Splinter’ was not the one dimensional riff monster that had been threatened and contained some of his best work in over ten years.

Interestingly NINE INCH NAILS, who have been a major influence on Numan and vice versa, also returned after a period of absence with ‘Hesitation Marks’.

Over at Mute, there was another Sorcerer versus Apprentice battle when GOLDFRAPP and POLLY SCATTERGOOD both released new records in the same month. Now no longer on Mute but very much still part of the extended family, MOBY released the impressive ‘Innocents’ which didn’t tinker too much with his well established formula and included a great collaboration with Wayne Coyne of FLAMING LIPS that sounded like GARY NUMAN in a Pentecostal church!

Photo by Roger Kisby

In 2013, North America appeared to be turning into a new haven for synth talent. There was LA pop duo NIGHT CLUB while also based in the region, SOFT METALS continued their Detroit Techno inspired progression with ‘Lenses’. Slightly eastwards, Texan based FEATHERS made an impressive statement with their debut long player ‘If All Now Here’; a European tour supporting DEPECHE MODE in January 2014 was fine recognition of their talent.

Fellow Texans ELEVEN:ELEVEN finally got their debut album ‘Through The Veil’ out too. New Yorkers HOLY GHOST! sprung the enjoyable electronic disco of ‘Dynamics’ while also from the area, AU REVOIR SIMONE returned with their fourth album ‘Move In Spectrums’ after an extended break.

But one slow burning combo were Canada’s TRUST; led by the enigmatic and moody Robert Alfons, at times he sounded like a young LEONARD COHEN updating the sleazy demeanour of SOFT CELL. They toured extensively and garnered some more well deserved attention for their grower of a debut ‘Trst’ which actually came out back in January 2012!

However, all the good work was undone by a ticket lottery fiasco for an end of year London gig in which unsuccessful applicants were not notified until three hours before the concert, this despite communications to the contrary telling people to arrive at the door with ID. In this ever more challenging music industry, artists have to be innovative with promotion. But restricting availability and tricking fans into what was effectively a marketing scam for a larger London concert in May 2014 only alienated audiences.

MARSHEAUX-twi1151cd

Photo by George Katsanakis

Like in previous years, Europe was again a centre of creativity. Athens based synth maidens MARSHEAUX were back with their maturer fourth album ‘Inhale’.

Meanwhile, their production team FOTONOVELA gathered DUBSTAR’s Sarah Blackwood, MIRRORS’ James New, KID MOXIE and SECTION 25’s Bethany Cassidy for ‘A Ton Of Love’ while riding on a crest of a wave from ‘Helen Of Troy’, their acclaimed collaboration with OMD. The song ‘Our Sorrow’ featuring James New turned out to be particularly poignant as after a year of minimal activity, MIRRORS called it a day.

From their Berlin HQ, NOBLESSE OBLIGE delivered an ‘Affair Of The Heart’ with its stark funereal cover of ‘Hotel California’ while Slovenian trio TORUL impressed audiences opening for MESH. Still fiercely independent and uncompromising, THE KNIFE divided opinion with their performance art presentation of their experimental double opus ‘Shaking The Habitual’. From Demark, TRENTEMØLLER delivered his third album ‘Lost’, an adventurous blend of real and electronic instruments that more than proved his suitability as a future prospective DEPECHE MODE producer.

With the critical acclaim still resonant for her 2012 album ‘Highwire Poetry’, KARIN PARK continued to tour the world but found time to co-write Norway’s Eurovision entry ‘I Feed You My Love’. Sung by MARGARET BERGER and leftfield by pure pop standards, it came a respectable fourth but predictably, the UK gave it nul points! Following their wonderful eponymous debut album in 2012, SIN COS TAN swiftly followed it up with the more organic but still synth friendly ‘Afterlife’.

Never one to sit still, the duo’s JORI HULKKONEN also released an EP ‘European Splendour’ with JOHN FOXX which sounded every bit as good as its title. Foxx didn’t sit still either and collaborated with THE BELBURY CIRCLE while also curating a covers EP of his own songs featuring GAZELLE TWIN and I SPEAK MACHINE.

Back in the UK, ANALOG ANGEL, AUTOMATIC WRITINGF.O.X, GAPTOOTH and MAPS flew the flag for the domestic scene. But best of the local crew though were VILE ELECTRODES; they snagged a prestigious support tour with OMD in Germany where the local crowds connected with Anais Neon and Martin Swan’s analogue electricity and opened for JOHN FOXX & THE MATHS in Brighton on their return. Their long awaited debut LP ‘The future through a lens’ did not disappoint and from it, the closer ‘Deep Red’ was easily the best OMD song that Humphreys and McCluskey never recorded.

As with last year, attempts were made within the industry to centralise electronic pop and dance music. But as the cancellation of the Playground Festival due to poor ticket sales proved, the two factions do not mix. Scheduled to appear on the Saturday, despite the technological influence of GARY NUMAN, JOHN FOXX and WOLFGANG FLÜR on the dance scene, the fans of those artists generally loathe the lifestyle and attitude of club culture.

Most just want to see the headline act and go home… the idea of paying an extra premium on the ticket price for a couple of DJs tagged on the see out the early hours of the morning simply doesn’t appeal! And those who are there for the DJs and larging it certainly aren’t interested in live bands. The sooner promoters and record labels realise that electronic pop and dance music are NOT the same thing, the better. That said, it was a difficult time for live events generally with The Electricity Club bearing witness to a number of name acts playing to half full venues.

Elsewhere, the music press were on the backfoot with rumours that the once mighty Q Magazine and NME were in trouble. But lazy journalism and lack of adventure by both were as much to blame as any proliferation of the internet or smart technology. That aside, 2013 was a superb year where the music spoke for itself. Many of the veterans gave the best up-and-coming artists a real run for their money.

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Photo by Lisa Devine Photography

And while the amount of new electronic music was at an all time high and the finest exponents rewarded with assorted high-profile opportunities as a result, a number of lesser acts suffered from the comparison. In her interview with The Electricity Club, MARNIE said: “I think it’s great that electronic music is on a high right now but it’s so saturated as well. Everyone’s going it’s great cos it’s electronic and I’m like ‘I’m not so sure’… but there’s lots of good stuff”.

In fact, the standard was so high in 2013 that some of the acts who The Electricity Club featured in 2012 probably wouldn’t have got a look in this year. From those who sounded like the middling bands featured on the Janice Long Show circa 1985 to 21st Century synthpop reincarnations of HUE & CRY, the volume of music available in many ways made it quite easy to distinguish the excellent from the pleasant but ordinary material that was, as the dreaded ‘Say Nothing Auntie Of Landfill Indie’ Jo Whiley would say, “alright”!

H17 and Martyn's AngelsTEC accepts the continuing mission to maintain a degree of quality control in 2014 as it has done since its inception.

As @TheRobMo put it on Twitter: “gatekeepers / tastemakers… it’s what we go to TEC for”. Meanwhile on TEC’s Facebook, regular reader Brian O’Malley correctly added: “Not all synth music is great, and not all guitar music is rubbish”.

But the final word on 2013 must go to BEF and Glenn Gregory (or HEAVEN 17 if you prefer) via their electronic cover of an Ervin Drake song made famous by Ol’ Blue Eyes:

“And it poured sweet and clear… it was a very good year”


THE ELECTRICTY CLUB Contributor Listings of 2013

PAUL BODDY

Best Album: MAPS Vicissitude
Best Song: MAPS Built To Last (Free School Remix)
Best Gig: ALISON MOYET at London Royal Festival Hall
Best Video: HOLY GHOST! Dumb Disco Ideas
Most Promising New Act: JUVENILES


KAREN BUXTON

Best Album: VILE ELECTRODES The future through a lens
Best Song: HURTS Someone to Die For
Best Gig: OMD + VILE ELECTRODES at Leipzig Haus Auensee
Best Video: OMD Night Cafe
Most Promising New Act: MARTYN BAILEY


DEB DANAHAY

Best Album: GARY NUMAN Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)
Best Song: COVENANT Last Dance
Best Gig: GAZELLE TWIN at London Roundhouse Studio Theatre
Best Video: TRUST Bulbform
Most Promising New Act: TRUST


STEVE GRAY

Best Album: CHVRCHES The Bones Of What You Believe
Best Song: MARGARET BERGER I Feed You My Love
Best Gig: BAS 2013
Best Video: IAMX I Come With Knives
Most Promising New Act: TORUL


CHI MING LAI

Best Album: OMD English Electric
Best Song: FOTONOVELA feat MIRRORS Our Sorrow
Best Gig: OMD + VILE ELECTRODES at Cologne E-Werk
Best Video: FEATHERS Land Of The Innocent
Most Promising New Act: FEATHERS


SOPHIE NILSSON

Best Album: ALISON MOYET the minutes
Best Song: SPACEBUOY Breathe
Best Gig: DEPECHE MODE at Copenhagen Parken
Best Video: DEPECHE MODE Soothe My Soul
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


RICHARD PRICE

Best Album: PET SHOP BOYS Electric
Best Song: OMD Dresden
Best Gig: KARIN PARK at The Lexington
Best Video: MONARCHY featuring DITA VON TEESE Disintegration
Most Promising New Act: CHVRCHES


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th December 2013

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